He leaves it on the table by the bed
along with a note that reads,
The winged fedora
is orange, with a yellow ribbon.
The small, white wings that stick out on either side
are delicate and soft, warm to the touch.
They flutter, ever so slightly, as you pick up the hat
and place it on your head.
you feel lighter, somehow.
safer than you have in your entire life.
*on the first day*
It takes you several hours just to work up the courage
but when you finally leave the house, the sky
is the soft purple shades of last daylight.
You steal a peach
from the fruit stand on the corner,
make your way to an old movie theater
where “From Here to Eternity” is playing on the big screen.
you sneak into the back row,
two seats over from a couple of teenagers,
who are tongue kissing in the dark.
You try to focus on the classic film and its gripping plot,
but by the time Burt Lancaster plants one on Deborah Kerr
in the corner of the captain’s kitchen,
the boy has worked his hand under the girl’s shirt.
Later, when Deborah says,
“I never knew it could be like this,
nobody ever kissed me the way you do,”
the girl’s got her hand inside the fly of the boy’s slacks.
As Frank Sinatra sputters, “don’t make a sound…lay there and be quiet,”
the boy, with the girl’s head in his lap,
whimpers so sweet
that you can’t help but reach out,
and run the back of your fingers
across the smooth of his cheek.
*on the second day*
You push the hat onto your head,
watch yourself vanish in the mirror.
You take the train across town to the farmer’s market
where the streets are lined with wooden stalls,
vendors selling freshly harvested plums and strawberries,
dolls with knitted yarn for hair,
brightly colored jars of preserves.
At the tent where there are fresh-baked pastries being sold,
you notice a woman in a purple dress.
she is older, you would guess in her late 60s,
but very beautiful. Her hair is long,
probably dark once
but now with thick streaks of grey and white
held back by a wooden clasp shaped like a moth.
She buys three chocolate éclairs
and moves out into the street.
Without knowing why, you decide to follow her.
You follow her into the used bookstore,
where she wanders the stacks,
buys a worn copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese
and the latest Vanity Fair.
You follow her into Chinatown,
to a tiny shop where she buys
a bamboo plant in a ceramic pot.
You follow her home.
Close behind her as she enters her door,
you watch her place the bamboo on the hall table,
the éclairs onto a plate. She goes to sit
in the windowsill by the sun.
You watch her eat,
you watch her read the magazine
with her shoulders sagging, slowly down,
a greedy child, sucking the chocolate glaze from her thumb,
a worried old horse, her long eyelashes flutter closed.
Her left hand falls lazily over her face,
when she exhales
every year of her life escapes between her fingers.
This is the way we all look when nobody’s watching.
the waking stillness,
a place we arrive in secret, remove our clothes,
and our bodies with them,
a place we usually can’t find
until we’ve forgotten to look for it—
but she has led you here.
*on the third day*
You decide to walk naked through the streets.
You step outside, timid at first, until the clouds part
for the sun, whose light can not find you, but whose heat
touches you everywhere. The summer wind rubs you soft
feels magnificent on your skin,
you scratch at your chest,
stretch your arms out
you feel huge.
As you walk into the city,
the steam from the grates blows between your legs
and your eyes close,
your tongue runs across the top of your lip.
You become the animal you have always wanted to be
jumping in fountains at the park,
smelling the sweet buttery heads
of newborn babies in their strollers,
kissing beautiful men on the back of the neck and
laughing softly when they turn around.
Dancing for no one,
untethered by eyes,
you are free.
Until you step on a bottlecap two blocks from home.
Then, you’re suddenly the cynical smirk again,
the limping trail of blood, the boy with the skinned knee.
When you finally open the door to your apartment
Hermes is there. You come up behind him,
and wrap your arms around him tight.
as he turns to kiss your invisible lips
the winged fedora slips from your head,
and you appear before him.
He looks up and down your naked body,
sees your bleeding foot,
and gives you the thumbs up.